On Friday, January 17, 2020, athletic directors, coaches, principals, and administrators from all over Cobb County School District assembled at Piedmont Church for a lunchtime celebration of the Power of Peace Project (POPP). It was also announced that four more schools in the district—Campbell, Osborne, Pebblebrook, and South Cobb—would be participating in POPP.
POPP is a not-for-profit organization founded by Kit Cummings. POPP’s program for schools is called “Protect the Dream,” which seeks to “interrupt and redirect young people who are on a perilous course and set them firmly on the pathway to extraordinary dreams.” POPP does this by locating the influencers in a school and influencing them to create positive change in the entire school. “Our entry point is student athletes,” Kit said, “because typically they have the most influence in a school.”
During his short talk, Kit held up a tree branch that he was given by his friend, Roots. “This branch,” he said, “is a symbol of something considered to be a ‘throwaway’ that was transformed into something beautiful. It’s a symbol of what we are seeking to do with POPP—spending time and effort on what many people think is not worth their time and turning it into something amazing.”
“All kids have dreams,” said Kit, ” whether it’s going to college, getting a scholarship, starting a business, or any number of things. What we do with Protect the Dream is to teach kids where the ‘dream-killers’ are located and what to say yes to. They already know what the no’s are, but if they have a big enough yes, the no’s just fall into place. They’re not going to try the drug at the party because that might wreck their dream. We then teach how to work together as a group, bringing peace to the culture of the school.”
District Athletic Director and POPP board member Don Baker attested to the power of the program as he saw it work at Kennesaw Mountain High School when was the AD there. “POPP helps kids take ownership and to become active participants in their school’s culture,” Baker said. Mike Linch, POPP board member and senior pastor at NorthStar Church in Acworth, agreed, “POPP is making a difference in young people’s lives in a huge way. It helps them to change the culture and the temperature in their own schools.”
In addition to Kennesaw Mountain, POPP has already worked with North Cobb and Harrison high schools. Harrison AD Josh Hawk and head football coach Matt Dickmann were present with several of their players attesting to the power of the project, especially in light of Harrison’s winning the state championship last month.
North Cobb principal, Matt Moody, is also a fan of the program. “I really like the leadership focus that POPP has brought to our athletic teams,” he said. “Under the guidance of Kit Cummings, our Warriors have been educated on the characteristics that positive leaders can display each day in our school and community.” North Cobb was also awarded POPP’s “School of the Year” at the banquet. Several North Cobb students joined Kit and Acworth mayor Tommy Allegood last year on a trip to Alabama to tour the Civil Rights Museum in Montgomery and to walk the same path as Martin Luther King, Jr. and speak with students and inmates in Selma. “Something changed in me that day,” Mr. Allegood said, “I became fully convinced of the mission of POPP on that trip.”
Spreading the power of peace and protecting the dreams of young people will continue in 2020 and beyond, thanks to generous contributions from individuals and sponsors of POPP. Campbell, Osborne, Pebblebrook, and South Cobb will be the next participants in Protect the Dream. “In an era where kids are being told what not to do by authority figures,” Kit said, “the kids at these four schools will learn how to dream a bigger dream for themselves and how to protect it and make it a reality. We protect what we value. It’s really quite simple, but it’s working.”
Learn more about POPP and Kit Cummings at their website here.